On Wednesday night, Corona del Sol’s girls volleyball team was getting ready for a playoff run.
On Thursday, the Aztecs and their eight seniors were instead facing a new reality that Thursday night against Desert Mountain was their final match of the season.
An error in the new MaxPreps.com/AIA power rankings which inadvertently allowed invitational tournaments to play a role in a team’s rating and strength of schedule was discovered after the final regular season power rankings were released on Tuesday.
The error, which has since been corrected and updated power rankings are now on the AIA365.com website with a link to this week’s initially-flawed rankings, caused roughly 6 percent of schools to move. Several moved either in or out of the top 16 within their respective division’s state, which begin next week for all five divisions.
Corona (10-6 in non-tournament matches) is among a few significant alterations state-wide. Phoenix Sunnyslope – considered by most to be one of the better teams in the state, along with Sandra Day O’Connor and Mesa High (the Jackrabbits went from No. 15 before the change down to No. 18).
In Division II, Higley (10-6) also appears to be severely hampered by the updated rankings as the Knights moved from No. 13 to No. 17. The Knights' regular season is over, so they sit on the bubble and must wait for Saturday's bracket announcements in case any other schools' matches could bump Higley up to that 16th spot.
None of this made Corona del Sol, Sunnyslope, Mesa or many other schools feel better about the error, process or algorithm secrecy in general.
"It’s one thing when you’re outside the top 16 and don’t make it, but when you’re in there all year (between Nos. 10 and 14) and then the last day of the season, it’s inexcusable," Aztecs coach Ben Maxfield said. "…There’s no trust in the system and it’s made it worse."
The Aztecs fared well in tournaments this season, which apparently boosted their rating. But when they beat Mountain Pointe last week, Corona felt like it was in the state tournament mix. But now six teams who weren’t in the state tournament on Wednesday are likely to be on Thursday.
Maxfield had to explain all this to his kids Thursday afternoon.
Similarly to boys volleyball and soccer, the girls volleyball committee has also previously proposed a 24-team state tournament (top eight get first-round byes) but it has failed to pass.
"I wish they’d go top-24 and play a match on a Monday night if we have to, or have first two rounds on the same day at the highest seed (similar to boys volleyball),” said Maxfield, a former boys volleyball coach at Corona. "I don’t see how they can say they do things for students and pull this."
"I still don’t think it rectifies the problem of why wasn’t it seen early. I can’t buy into it. We at least have a match so there’s some closure, many schools are already done."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.